UNILAG FOR HUMANITY PIC-FIC SERIES: DUMBULU’S FEAR BY A-SALT
eyelashes stand defensively. ‘What do they know about this community?’ She thought cynically.
Do they know about many women who had been made artificial surrogates because their
children have been taken out of the estate to some better places for refinement? And how those
children have grown refined beyond reconciliation to their biological mothers?
Hassanotu won’t stop weeping. Jameela won’t stop wailing. Sadness was all over their faces.
They took the wrong risks and believed the wrong people. What amazed them all was Adijatu’s
wisdom, and she won’t stop bickering at the foolish women who allowed the NGO to take their
children. She wanted her son to be a professor, and her dream was sure coming to pass each time
she sees Prof. Sai’s picture hung on the wall of her shack.
One very hot afternoon, after ransacking the welfare bag, Adijatu took a yellow jacket, a brown
sunshade and oversized blue trousers. She kept them carefully to surprise Prof. Sai, as her son
was fondly called. It was his birthday, his eighth. When the NGO began talking to prospective
mothers about the refinement of some community children, her son’s name was mentioned. She
quietly excused herself, dressed Prof. Sai up in what looked more like some 80’s fashionista, and
took him to Papa Photo for his best birthday shot. Thereafter, she gave him the meal she
prepared and asked him to continue reading the rat-torn books his late father left. It’s a poor
thing she couldn’t read. It’s been said that she loved her husband because he spoke big big
grammar and played on big big fields. Prof. Sai’s obsession to the rat-torn book made her glad.
Unknown to her, Prof. Sai was living the true dream of his late father: to be the most successful
football player from Dustbin Estate. He wanted to be a football star. Every heap of dirt in
Dustbin Estate knew his legs and the uncommon tricks he did with them, and they all rejoiced
with the wind the first day Prof. Sai kicked ball on the playground. He could molest his
opponents with legendary skills known of Pele and watch them crawl in the dirt, especially when
it’s muddy. Unknown to Adijatu, Prof. Sai’s rat-torn book was a soccer book he reads in guise of
his school books. But at least she had her son close to her.
Now they had come for Dumbulu’s son, Isaac. Was she the next mother to part with her child?
Her heart paced like a fowl watching her egg about to be smashed by a duck. Her chest
palpitated with the freestyle of jazz rhythm; and the visitors are the players. They had come as
usual, during the rainy season when they can convince mothers of the vulnerability of their
children in the mosquito-infested, stinking and damp environment with quagmires here and
there. It was a dangerous season that wet all faces and dried the hope of families. You can be
sure of tears from every shack in boula. Cries of children suffering from one ailment or another,
and the loud wailing of their sickening mothers. That’s the reality of families in Dustbin Estate.
It’s an estate dominated by women who worked very hard in nearby cities, peddling basic needs
to cater for their children. That’s why the visitors must get the permission of the mother before
helping her child. They never bothered the fathers. Those ones think less of their children since
each of them have at least two baby mamas. The men in the estate, apart from Adijatu’s late
husband, were all dogs. They passed the night in any favourite shack in boula.
Dumbulu’s heart kept pacing as the shadows of the visitors faded one after another. She
remembered Angila, the most brilliant boy form the neighbourhood who had been taken out the
estate by several NGOs but each time returned with stolen accessories that he showed off to
other boys in his gang. The stench from the environment greeted her again. This is the season
most of the children were prone to deadly diseases. She was swollen with rage and confusion.
An unusual sun shone that afternoon of Isaac’s birth – an afternoon mixed with tiny drops of
rain. Her own grandmother had told her the superstition, the myth of a lion begetting a cub
whenever there’s an admixture of sun and rain. Was she about to give birth to her cub? She had
wondered. Isaac was everything to her. The thought of ever parting with him for some greener
pasture made her sad. They had told her that he would be very outstanding if she allowed him to
leave the poor environment. She knew they were right, but her fear was anchored on the
loneliness of other women whose children never made it back, not physically though. The
thought of being a repulse to a child she loves haunted her.
The sun was fast setting, and faded with the shadow of the last visitor and she felt a drop on the
skin. It’s going to rain. She feared if Isaac would convulse again this season. And why did the
visitors not bring their doctors along for the past two weeks? They were making it obvious that
the children needed a better environment.
She was furious this time. She remembered how she would have afforded a better community if
not for the blind love she had for Isaac’s father. He had put her in the family way some weeks
before her final exams in junior secondary school. That ugly discovery by her parents had put her
out of her family’s will. She became a mother before really grasping what it meant to be one.
Isaac’s father had brought her here to boula, and had her raped by his gang to scare her away
from him, but she was found by Mamamia, the oldest woman in the estate, and had lied to her
that she’s an orphan. Now she was afraid. Afraid that her own future had become too distorted.
Afraid that the one child she had and had hoped to reshape her own future will eventually die of
convulsion. Would she now rob him of this chance to live?
She kept staring angrily at the fading shadows of the last visitor and was sincerely wondering if
that was her child’s hope fading or her own antagonist. She knew she had traded her son’s future
when his right hand rested on her shoulders. She wept secretly.